SEO Lessons from Seinfeld - Domain Authority is the Internet Kavorka
To get full value out of this post, you need to watch something. I realize that sitting for 2 minutes is now a very counterintuitive thing to do, but sometimes the sacrifice is worth it. Enjoy more (6 min) If you’ve been working in the SEO industry for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the concept of “Domain Authority” (DA), “Domain Strength”, etc. For those not in the know, DA essentially refers to the ability of a domain to rank in the SERPs based on its backlink profile alone with ALL ELSE EQUAL. If you’re interested in learning more, this explanation by SEOmoz will get you up to speed. As a link director, DA is just one of many metrics I examine when looking for links or while crafting a backlink strategy. While there is some information related to how important DA is, what role it truly plays is still largely unknown. Remember, correlation isn’t causation, as the SEOmoz folks like to remind us. This often leaves us SEO’s wondering what level of importance to place on issues such as developing DA for a site, or earning links from high DA domains. Common sense can take you a long way, but truly understanding the power that this metric represents takes some study. My goal in presenting the following information is to shed some light on the level of importance we should be placing on DA. It certainly has backed up and informed our opinions here at RKG. If you’d like to stop reading now, I’ve summed up the message in the following sentences, but you will miss the good stuff :). Domain Authority is so powerful, that it easily woos Google into giving up her prizes: rankings. DA is the Kavorka and Google cannot resist. During some recent SERP analysis, I noticed a particularly odd result (from a metrics standpoint) ranking in the top 10. The more I dug, the more that result seemed to stick out. While there are likely billions of examples similar to the one I came across (how do you think Amazon has such great rankings for so many pages?), this one stuck out to me particularly because of how the domain authority seems to have been achieved, but more on that later. As a disclaimer, I performed the following searches while using private browsing in FF to help limit personalization. I did not go to all extremes, but I’m pretty confident in how these results were displayed based on having others in different locations perform the same query. Take a minute to consider the following: SERP: "Earth Shoes" Order of results (by domain):
This screen shot from SEOmoz highlights a few key metrics often looked at when examining perspective link targets. Clearly, the onlinshoes.com result ranking three spots lower (read “that shoebuy.com is significantly out ranking”) has the strongest page-specific metrics across the board. Beyond that, the mozRank to mozTrust ratio of the shoebuy.com URL displays a pretty odd discrepancy, making the result even more unusual. It’s also important to note that the one link achieved to the shoebuy.com page is (according to Open Site Explorer) from shoebuyblog.com – a relatively weak domain. The page containing the link is relatively weak as well. When performing a URL search in Majestic SEO, no results are returned for the shoebuy.com URL. Examining the page will show you that there isn’t anything that noteworthy going on either. Social Sharing? Not much to speak of. Let’s look at the domains: *Note: I included mT and mR metrics as points of further reference. Since they are included in the DA score, that's our focus.
A similar story, except with an even more dominant set of page metrics. An on-page and social look reveal a similar situation to the first comparison as well. Let’s look at the domains:
Clearly, the shoebuy.com URL appears to be very poor but is coupled to a very strong domain. In both cases, this URL is outranking URLs that from a backlink metric standpoint are superior pages on very respectable domains. Their results (in my opinion) are equally relevant from other viewpoints as well. Time to get to the point. If you aren’t considering DA in your linking building strategy and working to understand how to harness and utilize it, you’re missing out big time. So, we believe domain authority is good. No, GREAT. So how do we go get some? Well, let’s take a look at one example that might surprise some of you based on how we've all been trained to understand good linking. Ok, so, it’s easy just by looking at a few of their top links to start to understand why shoebuy.com’s DA is so high. But, how did a shoe company get links on sites like hotwire.com, hsn.com, and expedia.com? And on the their homepages!?! Let’s take a look… Example: Hotwire.comExample: Expedia.com Takeaway? Partnerships with the right site can apparently be valuable. If you’re interested in doing some more digging related to this, take a look at the page metrics associated with the overstock.com result or the token “informational” result from the always-popular Wikipedia. While these aren’t over taking the stronger pages listed above, I’m willing to bet there are results with quality domains that also have strong page metrics listed 11-20 on the second page that are being passed up. In my opinion, according to the various sources of information that guide us related to links, it’s interesting those pages rank at all. Get the Kavorka. It can’t be resisted.